Taller Internacional de Software Educativo
Internet into the classrooms through the Kidlink list Brazilian experience
Miriam Lemer Melamed Vanessa Marinho
Escola Corcovado Rua Sao Clemente, 388 - Botafogo CEP 22260-000
Rio de Janeiro -RJ / Brazil
Tel. +55 21 537.8811 -fax. +55 21 537.9411
This paper reports on some experiences in pedagogical projects developed in Brazilian classrooms with 10 to 15 years old students, using the Kidlink list in the Internet. Most of these projects were proposed by Brazilian teachers, but were to carried out by involving children and teachers around the world.
Public and private schools in Brazil have been introducing computers since the beginning of the 90's. Some of these schools have, recently, been joining the Internet. But one of our main problems is still to get teachers to use these powerful resources with their pupils. It is through the commitment of the especialists in the use of computers in Education that it will be possible to show the possibilities of integrating the new technology into the classroom and the leaming process.
The biggest advantage in communicating via the Internet is to reduce
distances and to strengthen relationships. This is especially important
for Brazilian youngsters so that they can learn more about their own country,
despite the distances and different habits, cultures and diverse social
levels that such a large country embraces. By finding national and foreign
penpals, this activity can open good and different perspectives to students.
Classroom projects using the Internet are organized to explore themes that are part of the school curriculum and aim at developing leaming technology, raising researches skills and stimulating cooperative work using a multidisciplinary approach to multicultural issues.
These activities can help teachers evaluate students and their own class programs and methodologies. Frequently, it is possible to form students able to be creative, participative, interested, critical, conscious and fundamentally cooperative.
Justifying the choice of the Kidlink list
After reviewing some of the educational lists found in Internet, we decided to work with the Kidlink list because it could offer us the necessary support in developing our projects, especially regarding the availability of translation, pedagogical orientation and technical support.
Kidlink was planned, by Odd de Presno and is a grassroots project aimed at getting many children in the age group 10 - 15 involved in a global dialog. Since it started in 1990, around 90,000 kids from 105 countries from all continents have participated in the activities of this list. The Kidlink list has a large educators team from all continents and offers a sound structure to work with kids. It also has specific lists for several languages, supported by a tranteam (translators team): Arabic, English, Hebrew, Japanese, Nordic, Spanish, Portuguese and recently one in German (Mar. 97) and another in Iceland Language (Mai. 97).
Each of these specific lists is coordinated by, at least, one representative and some of these representatives either belong to or have the support of a governmental institution, especially ministries of education and universities.
In Brazil, the list is one of the priority projects of the WorkGroup in Distance Education of the Ministry of Science and Technology, therefore having a governmental backbone.
Brazilian Projects and Participation in K]IDLINK
The first Brazilian experience with pupils in Kidlink started in 1993. It was then restricted to the participation in a project called "Virtual Travel". As a first step, it helped us learn how to work in a project involving the Internet and how to master using e-mail.
In 1995, we proposed to develop a new theme-project "Recipe Book" and a lot of kids around the world sent colaborations to this project. This "Recipe Book" project has continued until 1996 and is, soon, going to be available in the Escola Corcovado and Mdlink/Brasil home pages.
Last year (1996), other themes were presented to/by various Brazilian schools: "Medical Plants", "Folkloric Celebrations", "Elections" and "Tourism". These projects were initiated by our team of teachers and students from two K12 schools and a Khouse' and received contributions from students all over Brazil and the world. We also participated in projects from other language lists, such as the "Multi-Cultural Calendar" and "Money around the world", proposed by Kidlinkproj, and "Short Stories & Poems", proposed by a representative of the Kidlink-Spanish list, in Uruguay. All of these projects have involved public and private schools in Brazil, in a cooperative effort and received the collaboration of foreign schools. Each project mentioned is also documented in a book available in the schools' libraries.
In 1997, we have been fostering two important projects at Escola Corcovado, a biligual private school (Portuguese-German), we proposed and developed a project called "The Stone Making testory", which focused on the use of the stone throughout civilization. In this same school, other class groups shared the research "Art&Music in Germany" with students the world over. The main goal of this activity was make the new Kidlink German list more dynamic.
'A computer laboratory in an educational institution that hosts students from public schools that do not offer them the necessary equipment. This is a special project in the Kidlink/Brazil organization.
And at Colegio Pedro II, a large public school in Brazil has resumed the "Virtual Travel" project with students from 4th to 6th grade. Now, that teachers and schools have better technical conditions to use efficient programs of communication and that the team is more experienced, this project has shown to be more productive. Two groups of students of the 7th grade from this school have joined in the "Virtual Sumatra" project proposed by a teacher in Saudi Arabia and another one, "Our Roots", proposed by Lely Nunez, a teacher from Uruguay. The great strength of these projects are that integrate with the class subject being focused on in Geography lessons.
Other group from 6th and another from the 5th grade at this same school have been developing two more projects in the Kidlink list: "The news' day" where they will make a news paper and "The Neighborhood Where I Live", where the younger students will present alternatives to lower the rates of air, sound and visual pollution of they live helped by suggestion or comments from other through the list.
Steps in developing a KIDLINK project
Developing KIDL@ projects requires several initial steps.
Step one: First of all, teachers and kids should subscribe to the Kidlink list. Adults should subscribe in the adult section by submitting the following message to the address indicated:
Text...................................................................... SUBSCRIBE KIDLEADER- <Ianguage chosen> <complete name>
Children (age 10 to 15) need to subscribe individually to the following address by submitting their personal answers to the four questions listed below.
Address (children)............................................................................................................ response@ listserv.nodak.edu
And they have to aswer the following four questions:
1. Who am I?
2. What do I want to be when I grow up?
3. How do I want the world to be different whem I'm grow n up?
4. What can I do now to make this hapen?
Step two: Choosing the theme and planning their project activities.
Both teacher(s) and pupils should explore and consider the themes already proposed in the Kidlink list. It is always advisable to join one of the projects in the list on one's first experience. However, teachers who would rather work on a topic which is more closely related to their own curriculum or their students' own personal experience, then they can plan and design their own project together with their students. It is essencial to keep in mind that the youngsters in the list are 10-15, and topics wich produce best results are those that speak to citizens from all over the world.
Also remember that the school calendar may differ in other countries,
so sometimes responses from abroad may not meet our expectations. Our experience
showed us that the best periods to carry out the projects "online"
are March-May and September-November. During these periods most schools
around the world are on school year. Generally, the months just
before are dedicated to internal planning of the classroom: organizing groups, choosing the theme, planning the calendar, writing projects etc.
Step three: Share your proposal in the Kidleader (adults forum), including: project description, objetives, curricular ideas for implementation in the classroom (optional), timeline and clear directions for participation. At the same time, students should send to the Kidcafe (children forum) a brief summary to invitate the participation of other youngsters.
At this point, a tranteam (team of translators on-line) can provide the translation into other languages, if necessary, but the authors of the project should present the translation to every list they want the project included in.
Stepfour: After these steps, the group involved starts developing the research for the project and at the same time, sending and collecting research to/from others. It is sometimes useful to also use "snail-mail", that is, the regular mail, especially in sending pictures, photos, tapes, colored products or other material which can cause technical problems to be sent via the Internet.
Stepfive: The last step is optional but extremely useful. It consists of putting together in book or report form the results of the project. Though most of the material has probably been made available on the list, it is always good to exhibit your productions in the "traditional" way to the public in your school or in other forums. This can also be the time to evaluate the results, review the procedures, and suggest other forms of developing projects based on the experience lived through.
Results obtained using KIDLINK projects in the classroom
Our experience has proved that planning Kidlink projects for our students' participation leads us to achieve the following results:
Planned activities for 98
In 1998, our major aims are three:
Under the first aim, we are involving Escola Corcovado, Col6gio Pedro II, Khouse and other Brazilian schools with foreign schools of Denmark, Germany, United States, Australia, Japan, Portugal and Uruguay in a flow of communication on topics of their choise, under the supervision of a teacher. At the same time, our team and teachers from these schools have been observing the kids' interest and planning future projects in the following topics: pollution, recycling, marketing and history.
Our experience has shown how difficult it is to match the interests
of the kids and the school curriculum. They really like computers and navigating
the Internet but they usually don't know what they are looking for and
frequently enter in irrelevant (sometimes in dangerous) sites. So they
need help to explore useful information. One of the main rules in developing
projects using the Internet is to keep children stimulated in finding information
and using it in their lives. We can see that educators around the world
have the same concerns of and, thus, we are now planning way in which we,
teachers, can work together towards our common aim.
Inspite of the fact that some teachers, that have been involved with Kidlink projects, still need more technical and pedagogical support to explore this means more intensively, it is clear that communication and research through the Internet are a potential resource for the classroom. It allows students and staff to identify cultural differences, share experiences with others, make decisions, develop writing and reading skills and, also, enables cooperative ventures.
Once students get hooked up on the Internet and on exploring it for enhancing their knowledge of the world and for raising their awareness of the different cultures our planet embraces, we have reached our basic goal. Yet, our experience shows that the Kidlink agegroup is limited and we need to offer alternatives to students who are older than 15, specially to those who have participated in Kidlink before and have become "addicted".